That’s Not Funny: Dirty Jokes and Jesus

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

What you laugh about says a lot about you.

Most of the world is laughing at things they should be crying about .  They are inviting you to join them.  The Bible teaches that marriage should be honored, and that people shouldn’t defile the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4), yet the marriage bed is scorned on the silver screen during countless scenes of fornication that are seen as humorous.  Adultery is inane, blasphemy is a gag, and sin is joke, and they want you to start laughing.

To compound the problem, many of us find ourselves confused about the types of things we should be joking about.  You know the situation, right?  You’re with a group of friends, and someone tells that border line joke, and everyone nervously chuckles and shifts their eyes towards everyone else to make sure it’s OK to laugh.  Your conscience is pricked, and you (and everyone else in the group, for that matter) know you shouldn’t be laughing.  How should we think about this?

Jesus wants to be Lord over your laughing, and he inspired Ephesians 5 to show us the way. Here are a few things to keep in mind about crude humor, filthy talk, and sexual immorality as you engage in conversations and entertainment:

It’s improper.  You were not made to indulge in any type of sexual immorality.  Paul tells these people that sexual immorality and impurity, “should not even be named among you, as is proper among saints”.  Like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet all day long, indulging in impurity throughout the day doesn’t fit with believers that are indwelt by the Spirit.  Why would we let these things have a name among us when these are the very things that Jesus bled for?  It’s improper among Jesus’ cleansed bride.

It closes up the kingdom.  If you indulge in sexual immorality for the rest of your days, you won’t go to heaven.  Paul tells us that you can be sure of it.  The raunchy joke on your favorite show may be drained of its humor if you see it as something that is a roadblock to heaven.  Yes, Jesus died for all of your sins and every stumbling into impurity, but Jesus also died so that you would be set free from the power of sin (Romans 6), and that you would be delivered from this present evil age (Galatians 1:4).  Paul is warning Christians that if they are sexually immoral they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It is damned.  When we laugh at sexual immorality, we are laughing about things that people are being punished for in hell.  Paul tells the Christians that because of sexual immorality and impurity the wrath of God is coming.  The picture painted for us by the world around us is opposite.  Explicit sexual immorality is not that big of a deal, and it’s easy to be numbed and carried by the current of laxity in regards to this type of humor and joking.  This is why we need the truth of Scripture to wake us up to the reality of sin and kick us in the pants to start swimming against the tide.  Paul tells us not to be “deceived”.  How easy it is so consume the view of the world around us without exposing it for what it is.

You were made for so much more.  Finally, crude joking just isn’t that funny.  When viewed through the lens of Scripture and brought under Jesus kingship, we begin to see these types of jokes as simply out of place.  Filthy talk and crude joking is nothing but a counterfeit joy that will give you the temporary buzz of laughter.  What Jesus calls Christians to is something much more durable and long lasting: thanksgiving.  You were not made to laugh at sex-scenes in movies and make line-bending jokes; you were made to experience the heart-bursting, pure thrill of thanksgiving.  The next time you are tempted to talk filthy or crudely joke, replace those thoughts and words with thankfulness.  Your joy will be compounded, your community enriched, and soul refreshed.  You were made for so much more.

It would be easy at this point to nuance all of my words with qualifications and exceptions and warnings about being legalistic towards others.  There are people who have over-corrected and think that God loves them based on their humor. However, I believe that what I need more than anything is Paul’s straight talk about my mouth rather than definitions about where the line is when it comes to my humor.  As we seek to bring even our laughter and humor under Jesus’ rule, let each of us live as those who will give an account for every word – and joke – we speak.   There are better things to laugh at, and better gifts to be enjoyed.

Of Sins and Cinemas

Image
by Spencer Harmon

Iron Man 3.  The Great Gatsby.  Star Trek.  Man of Steel.  The Wolverine.  300.

Within the next three months, you are most likely going to be invited to see one of these movies.  And not only these, a vast array of other highly anticipated summer films.  Your favorite stars, your favorite stories, during your favorite season.  From the ultra-conservative who only watches movies recommended by their pastor, to the movie connoisseur who finds “gospel” even in the most explicit films, the cinema often creates blurry lines for Christians who live in between two worlds. Here are a few categories and cautions to be thinking about as you consider going to the theater for the hottest summer flicks.

Research.  You should never feel victimized by sin at the movie theater.  In our day, there are several resources available to you to aid in making a decision about going to see a movie at the theater.  First, a simple glance at the rating of a movie can save you a lot of heartache.  If the movie is rated R for sexual content and nudity, don’t go.  Is this legalism?  No.  It’s fleeing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and it will help you see God (Matthew 5:8).  Yet, some movies demand more careful thought.  At this point, I always find it helpful to check a movie review site.  You can find sites that offer a Christian perspective, or just the facts.  Either way, you should never walk out of the theater feeling taken advantage of – the resources are available.  Take and use!

Bail.  Sometimes, whether because of neglect or some other outlying circumstance, you will find yourself in the theater when the movie goes downhill.  If the movie is causing you to sin, you should leave.  Walking out of the theater does several things.  First, it tells the truth.  When you leave the theater during a sex scene, you are telling the truth about marriage, sex, covenant love, and purity.  When you leave the theater during uncalled for, excessive, cruel, and unnecessary gore and violence, you are telling the truth about courage, honor, dignity, and human worth.  Second, it provokes conversation.  Why did you leave the theater?  Why do you care so much about what you watch that it would cause you to walk out?  Third, and most importantly, it protects your soul.  We can grieve the Holy Spirit by the things that we do and say (Ephesians 4:30), and we should be striving to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).  Sometimes, obedience means saying excuse me, sidestepping out of the aisle, and waiting in the lobby of the theater.

Engage.  No matter what you are watching, you should watch movies like a Christian.  There are glorious amounts of truth to be gleaned at the cinema, but horrendous amounts of deceit to be rejected as well.  Ask yourself good questions while watching the film:  What are the makers of this film trying to say to me?  How do the relationships, circumstances, and actions of the characters relate to how the Bible presents life?  Hebrews 5:14 says that mature Christians are those who, “…have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” Movies present wonderful opportunities to exercise moral discernment.  Don’t watch passively.

Engage Together.  Let movies that you see with friends lead to good discussion.  It is good at times to take a few moments to gawk at incredible special effects in the movies, but if that is all you ever talk about you are missing out on a world of fellowship.  Ask questions in the car on the way not just about things you liked and disliked, but things you agreed with and disagreed with.  Let the movie spur you on to depth.  Movies can lead to conversations about war, marriage, love, hate, relationships, divorce, death, eternity, God, politics, and a million other important life issues.  Engage in these discussions during the summer – let these talks take you late into the night.

Beware of Infiltration.  There is nothing like a steady diet of Hollywood to corrupt your view on beauty, truth, and goodness.  Don’t forget that the Bible says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30) when you see nothing but coke-bottle figures, and rough whisked buff tough guys presented as beauty.  Don’t forget that you are called to forgive and show grace (Ephesians 4:32), even though revenge is portrayed as the only way to respond to hurt.  All too easily, Hollywood begins informing your values instead of Scripture.  It rouses your feelings before faith, your passions before principles.

Beware of Saturation.  It seems that during the summer, every Friday holds a new film.  Every film claims to be the film of the year.  And you don’t want to miss out, do you?  Remember that you are called to seek the Lord’s presence (Psalm 105:4), and enjoy his free grace, not gorge on movies.  Sure, enjoy a movie with friends; however, don’t become so saturated with the newest and  latest this summer that the only means of “fellowship” you know is happening in front of movies instead of in real conversation about real life things.

Remember, the aim at the theater is not to please your friends, please yourself, or your pastor.  The aim is to please God and honor him with life.  Holiness happens in the small circumstances. It happens with steps. The thoughtful response, the restrained tongue, and even the intentional watcher of film glorify God.  It’s here that the battles are fought.

What Is Love?

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Love is in the air – or is it?

There has been a lot of talk recently about what love is and who has been hindering it. Politicians are coming out about it and the courts are getting ready to come down on it. A recent tweet from the President reads, “Every American should be able to marry the person they love. #LoveIsLove”

This sounds like a good hashtag. It seems legitimate on one level. Who would dare hinder true love from being complete? Why would anyone stand in opposition to love? Wouldn’t it be hatred to oppose love?

The problem is that love is not up for a vote. Love is not play-doh to be smushed into any shape we want. Love cannot be determined by popular consensus, humanity, or any political party.

The problem with the “Love is love” motto is that it actually distorts love.

The good news is that we can define love. We can answer the question. There is hope in the world because love actually exists and is not up for debate. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

God is love and he is the one who defines the term. We should also note that it is of paramount importance that we get love right. The one who does not love does not know God.

If God calls something evil, then it is unloving to support it. If God calls something good, then it is hatred to oppose it.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

God has called homosexuality a sin and his definition is not outdated. It is not the unpardonable sin, but it is nonetheless a sin. (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Tim 1:10) God has called marriage good and requires the marriage bed to remain undefiled. (Heb 13:4)  To place sin into the marriage bed is opposing the very author and definer of love Himself – God.

The stunning reality of this whole ordeal is that Love took on human flesh and died a brutal death for sinners. Jesus is the embodiment of love and he bore the wrath of God for anyone who would turn from their sin and believe in His name. Jesus is not afraid of any sin – including homosexuality. He took the terrible wrath of God full on when he died upon the tree. He rose victoriously from the grave to offer forgiveness to anyone who would turn from their sin and believe.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed,you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is love? It is God extending mercy to anyone who will call upon his name. It is telling others about what God has done and what he says about the world. It is upholding truth, mercy, and justice in accordance with God’s Word.

What is hatred? It is distorting love and defining it however we feel. It is opposing truth, beauty, goodness, and God’s created order. It is rejecting the good news of Jesus for sinners.

If we become the arbiters of marital love, then we can make it into whatever we desire. We can “love” a man, woman, child, cat, or all of the above. The possibilities are only bound by our options.

But there is more at risk than crumbling our society. If we appoint ourselves as the captain of our own love boat, we will either shipwreck or remain drifting at sea. In the effort to obtain “love”, we will actually miss it. We will seek our own desires but never be satisfied.

The call of the hour is to lay down every sinful desire and run to the loving arms of God.

Abortion: The Scarlet Letter of Our Day

by RuthAnne Irvin
by RuthAnne Irvin

 

You will find it in the fearful and distant eyes of a young girl waiting outside an abortion clinic in the early hours of the morning, smoking a cigarette with no interest in embracing the little life growing within her womb. You’ll see it in the stony eyes and actions of escorts doing what they believe to be their civic duty- protecting a woman’s choice. You will find the sad realities of living in a sin-cursed world everywhere you turn for as long as your lungs continue breathing. Abortion is a controversial topic today and is something that is spoken about in a boisterous manner, or swept under the rug, but still whispered about in the back row of the church as if it were the unforgivable sin.

When thinking about abortion, there has been a disconnect between abortion and the gospel of grace and compassion. Because of our sinful state, we are tempted to place an imaginary scarlet letter upon the issue of abortion, as if it were an unforgivable sin.  A woman who has chosen to end life within her womb instead of embrace it will still answer to God just like the gossiper, adulterer, thief, swindler, & self-righteous Southern Baptist preacher. All will stand before a just God and receive their due for unrepented sin, or a clear record because of placing faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross.

The truth of Scripture says that every human has fallen below the standard of holiness that God demands in order to commune with him (Romans 3:23). God’s word tells Christians to be holy because he is holy (1 Peter 1:15), but in our humanness we still are prone to sin. All have fallen below the holiness God created us to exude, so we need to give grace to one another like we have been given grace from God through Christ. The gospel has the power to save not only the good, virginal church girl, but the girl with downcast eyes walking into an abortion clinic to end an innocent life.

If we are in Christ, we have been made anew through the blood of Jesus that flows freely to all who repent, believe and call to him for forgiveness. The blood of Christ covers the blood that is on the hands of a woman who has ended a precious life just like it covers the sin of the Women’s Missionary Union president. We need to remember that Jesus’ blood is sufficient for every sin, not just the ones we deem as “acceptable.”

So, when you’re on a sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic on a cold November morning and you watch a mother walk a young girl into an abortion clinic, and as your heart goes from broken to angry, remember Jesus. Remember Jesus and let your heart be filled with compassion for those around you who have not yet experienced the grace of God through the gospel. Let your heart break and remember you are no better than the girl who just walked into the abortion clinic, but you also need a Savior who is willing to take your place for all the wrong you have done. Remember the blood that dripped from the cross covers the angry words said at the breakfast table this morning, as well as the blood that drips from the abortion table. Remember the sin you committed yesterday, this morning and the sin yet to be, and remember that the darkness of sin that dwells within every human soul is what Jesus was nailed upon a tree for.
Remember and let it lead to action. Christ’s followers should be eager to love, care for and counsel those who have had abortions.

The gospel of Jesus is the power to transform hearts and we should desire this transformation for the women who have ended life within their wombs. Remember and then rejoice that you are covered through repentance and remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is gloriously sufficient for anyone who places their faith in the gospel. Remember and rejoice that we are covered.

 

RuthAnne Irvin is a student at Boyce College, blogger, and writes as an intern for the Towers Magazine a publication of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can read more of her writings at her blog Out of the Ordinary Dreamer.

 

Oxymorons and the Image of God

 

by Sean Perron


There is absolute truth and it absolutely matters. Christians must love truth because they follow the Truth.
Everything is staked on what we believe.

I want to be the kind of man who lives and dies for the Scriptures. Yet, the great irony is that in my defense of the Bible, I can often sin against others and therefore violate the Bible. If I am not careful, I can treat people of opposing views as completely evil. My view of them becomes one-sided and I only think of them as someone who doesn’t believe [blank].

People are more complex than this and I find myself shocked at times when,

  • I receive a kind note from a pro-abortion friend who asks about my life says they are praying for me.
  • I see a theistic evolutionist who gives sacrificially to the poor.
  • I hear of a universalist who welcomes the broken into their home to minister to them.


Perhaps even reading these lines grates against you. Indeed they should. God wants our doctrine and our lives to match and everyone of the above examples is an oxymoron. These friends claim love Jesus but are believing false teaching.

How should we engage those we strongly disagree with?
I do not have all the answers, but here are some thoughts from the book of James.

1) Be slow to anger (James 1:20)
Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Check your heart.
Jesus remained sinless the entire time he flipped tables and drove out the hypocrites. Do not have as high of expectations for yourself. Often times our righteous anger is self-driven. We are so sinful that we can claim a good cause and spew our venom at the same time. Love is not easily angered. There are times when our blood should boil, but we must have our hand on the stove dial, and there always needs to be love in our burner.

2) Give mercy as you have been given mercy (James 2:13)
For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.
If the person you are critiquing believes the true gospel, treat him as you would a brother. We have the right to strongly disagree, but we do not have the right to sin against one another. Give the benefit of the doubt and do not treat a brother or sister like a dirt bag to drag through the mud.

3) Tame the Tongue (James 3:2-10)
With our tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the image of God. This ought not be! In our critique, do we show honor to the individual? Or do we curse the ground they walk on?
Do we treat them as people created by God for his glory? Do we give them respect? Or do we treat them like vermin to be exterminated?

4) Love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8)
Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Be fair in your representation of their arguments. Do not use Ad Hominem arguments that attack them rather than their beliefs. Cultivate a genuine love for them in your heart. Pray for them and long for them to believe truth. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?”

5) Be confident and calm in Christ (James 3:13-18)
Even though we have the right to bear arms, let us load our arsenal with bullets of truth, love, meekness, and humility.
In our conversations, let us be winsome and confident in the truth. The wisdom that is from above is gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial and sincere. Let us display this confidence by maintaining control in the conversation and not yelling at those who disagree. Christ does not need our help in convincing others of the truth. He simply calls us to be faithful to share the truth in love with all meekness.

6) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers (James 4:11)
God does not want us to slander his creation. Let us be careful that we do not sin against God while we represent him to the watching world. Let us be especially careful when we talk about brothers and sisters when they are not around. God hears every word about his craftsmanship and takes it seriously. Even liberals are made in the image of God and we should treat them as such.

7) Bring people back from wandering (James 5:20)
God does not call us to be pacifists when his glory is at stake and souls are on the line. God rejoices when one wandering soul returns to the truth and repents. Let us be people who speak the truth boldly in sincere love.

Blessed are those who proclaim truth to all people and treat them as people made in the image of God.

What the Demons Taught Me (part 2)

 

 

[this is part two of a series on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. See What the Demons Taught Me: part 1 by Spencer Harmon]

 

1.)  Selflessness is self-forgetfulness

Screwtape constantly reminds his young nephew to keep his patient away from self-forgetfulness and encourages him to, “…teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them” (141).  If my main goal in giving my money to the poor is so that I can be known as a “generous person” I have a sinful motivation.  Instead, I ought to find my joy in the joy of others.  My preferences, interests, and “image” should be like morning fog being burnt away by the heat of the needs of my neighbor.

2.)  Worldliness is worldliness no matter how many times you call it “experience”

Screwtape informs Wormwood that, “Real worldliness is a work of time – assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience” (156).  My American Christianity needs a good dose of this reality.  For it is easy to cloak my love for the things of the world by saying certain sinful things are bearable for “mature believers” while I lose my childlike desire to please my heavenly Father.  If the movie is sinful I should not watch it; if the music is sensuous I should not listen to it; if the party is a house full of temptation I should not attend it.  These are not legalisms that keep me from understanding my world better; these are prescriptions that help me see my Savior clearer.

3.)  Faith and repentance is better than your most spiritual promises

Screwtape scolds Wormwood for his patient’s response to a recent “fall from grace” because he is not making, “…lavish promises of perpetual virtue,” but instead, “only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation!” (69).  Faithfulness does not always look flashy, and neither does daily dying.  So often a fiery sermon, a fresh new book, or a stirring conversation incites a desire to promise God feats that he is not asking of me.  Rather, God calls his sons and daughters to repentance and faith, and seeking his kingdom first.  This is the radical Christianity we have been wanting:  grace fueled obedience.

Stop Being True To Yourself

Should you be true to yourself?  When I was a child, I remember hearing this pumped through movies, music, and even sentimental old folks giving me sagely wisdom when I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up.  As a 20-something living in the American culture, there is a whole lot of fuss going around about being true to yourself, following your heart, and doing what “feels” best.  So, here’s two reasons you should stop being true to yourself:

1.)  You were made to be true to Another

You are wired as a human being to be true to Another in order to be true to yourself.  Ultimately, you were made to forget about yourself, and to find your identity by losing it in something far greater than yourself.  This is how you were made; this is how you were designed.  Why would someone think that homosexuality is wrong, or that it is a good thing to stay pure before they are married, or to not plan on getting slammed this Friday at the nearest party?  Because they don’t buy the idea that their fundamental priority should be being true to their self.  Rather, the ultimate aim and goal is to be true to Another, and find satisfaction in Him.

2.)  You were made for transformation, not stagnation  

All humans are born as broken, dead beings in a shattered, graveyard world.  The Bible teaches that humans are born thinking, acting, and feeling in wrong and sinful ways.  Our fundamental disposition coming into the world is incredibly flawed.  The Bible presents an idea of humanity as being in need of not stagnation, but transformation; not continuing in the old, but putting on the new; not in rejoicing in evil, but turning from it.  Human beings can change, not by self-help, do-it-yourself improvement plans, but by supernatural repentance and faith in Jesus, who calls all humans everywhere to turn from being true to their self to be true to him.

So, stop being true to yourself.  You will never find satisfaction in appeasing all of the titillating inclinations of your mind and body.  Instead, turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus.  Find your identity outside of yourself.  Lose your life, and you will find it in Him.

“Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in”  C.S. Lewis

 

Spencer Harmon